House of Representatives

Economic charter change proposal breezes through the House. What’s next?

Kaycee Valmonte

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Economic charter change proposal breezes through the House. What’s next?

BUSY DAY. On the last day of the 19th Congress' 2nd regular session, lawmakers approve the measure seeking to revoke SMNI's franchise and Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 - the proposed economic charter amendments.

Kaycee Valmonte/Rappler

'As far as the House is concerned, we've already fulfilled our mandate, we have passed RBH, we have passed the resolution and we have forwarded it to the Senate,' says House Deputy Majority Leader Jude Acidre

MANILA, Philippines – On the last day of regular session before its Holy Week break, the House of Representatives approved the Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 (RBH7), which proposes to open up to foreign investors the public utilities, education, and advertising sectors.

Voting 288-8-2, House lawmakers on Wednesday, March 20, approved on third and final reading RBH7, a measure filed by the House majority just a month ago.

“As far as the House is concerned, we’ve already fulfilled our mandate, we have passed RBH, we have passed the resolution and we have forwarded it to the Senate,” House Deputy Majority Leader Jude Acidre said in a press conference on Thursday, March 21.

“We’re looking at our friends in the upper house of what they will do because as they insist, Congress is a bicameral body and the actions of the House has to be reciprocated by the Senate and… I have full trust in [the RBH6’s authors] capacity to convince their peers knowing that the RBH7 that this is something that will be good for the country.”

The resolution inserts the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in provisions limiting foreign ownership, which House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Wednesday touted as “a clear testament to our readiness to adapt to the dynamic global economy.” (READ: Why 4 lawmakers voted against RBH7, the economic charter change proposal)

The measure hurdled six marathon hearings in the span of two weeks at the House Committee of the whole. It was approved on second reading just last week.

On Wednesday evening, congressmen immediately sent RBH7 to senators after it was approved.

All eyes on the Senate

The chances of the proposed charter amendments passing at the Senate remains slim despite RBH7 being a mere “clone” of the charter change resolution first filed at the upper chamber, RBH6. As of last week, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said that it would be a “big challenge,” citing the rift between lawmakers from the two Houses of Congress as one of the factors.

However, Acidre said the clock was ticking for both chambers.

“As many of us actually know, the elections are coming and we already cited that the most favorable time for this to be passed is before Congress adjourns sine die,” the TINGOG representative said, referring to when the 19th Congress adjourns its second session on May 24.

“That’s the time frame that makes it logical and makes it possible, feasible to have the plebiscite done either before or however it goes in the 2025 elections.”

RBH6, however, is still being deliberated at the committee-level, which has had four public hearings on the charter amendments so far. The resolution would have to hurdle the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes before it reaches plenary.

Hopeful for dialogue

While Congress is currently on its Holy Week break, congressmen hope to meet with their counterparts at the upper house to iron out issues between the chambers.

“Ang mas magandang paraan para sa ating lahat ay i-maximize natin itong Holy Week break na makapag-usap ‘yung leadership ng House at ‘yung leadership ng Senate and to reconcile on a definitive path kung paano natin i-a-approach at ihahakbang ang RBH6 at RBH7 papunta sa Comelec (Commission on Elections) para makarating sa plebescite,” Deputy Speaker David Suarez said on Wednesday.

(What would benefit all of us is if we maximize this Holy Week break so that the leaderships of the House and the Senate can talk and reconcile on a definitive path on how we will approach and bring RBH6 and RBH7 to the Comelec for it to reach a plebiscite.)

Ako Bicol Representative Raul Angelo “Jil” Bongalon said that lawmakers showed a “united stand” as they do expect constitutional challenges to the proposed charter amendments. –

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